Manafort associate had links to Russian intelligence

A FEB. 14 2018 FILE

Last summer, as the special counsel's office was asking a grand jury to indict Michael Flynn on a variety of charges - while simultaneously imploring the former national security adviser to cooperate with investigators - Donald Trump's lawyer made a decision to have a word with Flynn's attorney about the president's pardon powers.

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is now betting his future on a presidential pardon, legal sources with knowledge of his strategy tell CBS News' Paula Reid.

According to the Times, Dowd talked about the idea as special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russian Federation probe MORE was building cases against Flynn and Manafort.

Late last week, President Trump's legal team took another hit when John Dowd resigned, reportedly because President Trump didn't listen to his legal advice.

Paul Manafort has been indicted on multiple charges of financial fraud.

The Times reported that it was not clear if Dowd had discussed the prospect of pardons with President Trump, but that Trump had asked about the extent of his pardoning power in a meeting past year with lawyers from the White House Counsel's Office. Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty last month of lying to Mueller's investigators about his conversations with Gates and a "Person A", who is widely believed to be Konstantin Kilimnik, a former associate of Manafort.

Dowd insisted Wednesday that he did not raise the idea of pardons with lawyers representing the two men.

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A spokesperson for Manafort, Jason Maloni, also declined to comment. In February 2017, he told The New York Times he had "never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government of the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today".

Flynn, who briefly served as Trump's national security adviser, pleaded guilty in December to one count of "willfully and knowingly" making "false, fictitious and fraudulent statements" to the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding his his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016.

"I have only been asked about pardons by the press and have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House", White House lawyer Ty Cobb said in a statement.

Trump has virtually unlimited powers to pardon people even before they have been charged with a crime.

And in comments to reporters in December, Trump hinted at the possibility that he might pardon Flynn.

Last August, the president pardoned controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which analysts speculated was to signal that he was willing to do so in the special counsel probe.

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